Insights

Things to do in Devon

7 minute read

Laura Dale

Chalk & Ward compiled our staff’s top tips for things to do in Devon by sharing our local knowledge of the lesser-known hot spots.

From exploring the region’s moorland and coastlines to the quaint villages and charming towns, there’s a plethora of things to do in Devon. Those of us lucky enough to call this picturesque county home, know there are outdoor adventures, foodie havens, and rich cultural heritage spots to be explored and enjoyed, providing ample opportunities for solo exploration, couples, and families. Chalk & Ward compiled our staff’s top tips for things to do in Devon by sharing our local knowledge of the lesser-known hot spots.

Things to do in Devon for solo explorers or couples:

The Japanese Gardens at the University of Exeter, things to do in devon.
The Japanese Gardens at the University of Exeter.

1. Take a walk through the University’s ‘The Japanese Gardens’ in Taddiforde Valley up to Belvidere Meadows and enjoy the stunning, elevated views across Devon. In the summer months, there are hardly any students about, and you can enjoy the amazing collections of trees in the serenity of the university grounds.

Wistmans Wood, Things to do in Devon.
Wistman’s Wood.

2. Walk to magical Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor. The wood is one of the highest oak woods in Britain and, as an outstanding example of native upland oak woodland, was selected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1964. This amazing woodland is important for the mosses and lichens that festoon the trees and the impressive granite boulders found on the site. Its otherworldliness makes it the perfect spot to practice your photography skills, but stick to the paths and help protect the extremely rare and fragile habitat. After your walk, go for a cream tea by the open fire at the Two Bridges Hotel (a haven for walkers) or make the most of your countryside escape and spend the night in one of the hotel’s four-poster beds. This is one of the top things to do in Devon for couples who want to enjoy the scenery and get away from the hustle and bustle of life.

Paddy Myers and Greig Barclay from Chalk & Ward enjoy a walk at Belstone.
Paddy and Greig enjoy a walk at Belstone.

3. Drive to the north Dartmoor village of Belstone for a 5.5 mile circular walk from the village of past Irish Man’s Wall, over the hill, and across a ford to Taw Plain. Take a detour to visit the mysterious Nine Maidens stone circle or climb Winter Tor. Finish up at the Tors Inn enjoying locally sourced food and stunning views of Dartmoor. The Inn’s beer, ale, and cider are all made in Devon by micro-breweries and even the coffee is roasted on Dartmoor. Their meat is free-range and sourced locally and the cheeses are made in Devon, the bread is from local artisan bakeries. A must on any food lover’s list of things to do in Devon.

4. Stroll from Budleigh Salterton Beach to East Budleigh and pop into the community-run Sir Walter Raleigh pub for a pint and some grub. Their Sunday lunches are particularly good, but be sure to book in advance. Dogs are welcome in the bar area.

Salcombe Hill, National Trust. Things to do in Devon.
Salcombe Hill National Trust.

5. Salcombe Views and Valleys Walk. Enjoy breathtaking coastal views on this 45-minute walk from Salcombe Hill National Trust car park (it’s free for members or £3 for non-members) through the woods, then down the hill taking in the magnificent vista of the coastline. Follow the path and it takes you to Sidmouth seafront. Head to Mocha café (they serve great coffee and homemade cakes) and refuel for the walk back up the hill – you’ll need it because it’s knee-achingly steep.

6. If you’re looking for a perfect, relaxed couples date, then head to Salcombe and enjoy a rum tasting or cocktail making experience with the Devon Rum Company. They’re a small team of dedicated rum makers who love what they do and are happy to share their tips for the perfect cocktail. It’s great fun and you don’t have to be a rum enthusiast to enjoy yourself (and the drinks). Chances are you’ll be staying overnight in Salcombe, so go for breakfast at the Salcombe Coffee Company, followed by a walk on South Sands Beach. A firm favourite on our list of things to do in Devon for couples.  

7. Go for dinner at the Ceylon Cinnamon Restaurant in Kingsbridge. This Sri Lankan restaurant is run by a one-woman band, who does everything from front of house to cooking and serving amazing food. If you’re booking in the quiet season, bring a crowd and fill the restaurant with your friends. Extend your trip and prior to dinner explore the independent shops and cafes in Dartmouth before getting Higher Ferry (for foot passengers and vehicles) across to Kingsbridge. 

Fernworthy Resevoir, Dartmoor National Park
Fernworthy Resevoir, Dartmoor National Park.

8. Explore Fernworthy reservoir on Dartmoor. It’s the perfect scenic spot for a walk or a cycle ride and it has places to set up camp too. Spend an entire day exploring the woods around the reservoir and do some bird watching or fishing for brown trout.

Bluebells at Holwell Lawn, Dartmoor National Park
Bluebells at Holwell Lawn, Dartmoor National Park.

9. Go for an early evening summer stroll at Holwell Down, near Hound Tor on Dartmoor. The wild bluebells are at the peak of perfection in the first two weeks of May and the soft evening light makes the flowers shimmer. Make the most of your relaxing evening and head to the Moorland Hotel for dinner (Agatha Christie wrote her first novel while staying here). One to add to your list of things to do in Devon for adults.

Things to do in Devon with children:

1. For a traditional seaside town day out head to Dawlish Warren Beach. Dip your toes in the water and play games on the beach before heading into town for more fun at the amusement arcade and mini fun fair. This summer, Dawlish Warren is hosting the Big Wheel. If you’re brave enough, the 34-metre ride promises breathtaking views over the reserve, the Exe Estuary, and the south coast.

2. Immerse yourselves in the world of 360-degree visuals at Market Hall in the heart of Devonport, Plymouth. Market Hall is home to a 15-metre dome which offers incredible immersive experiences and events suitable for all ages. Discover space, explore an enchanted reef or learn about dinosaurs in the state-of-the-art dome, which is the only one of its kind in Europe.

3. Tiny tots can play until their hearts’ content at Little Adventures Play Café in Kenton, a Montessori and hygge inspired play café with a carefully thought-out play area. This ‘home-from-home’ play café offers a safe space for children from zero to six to play whilst the grown-ups enjoy a coffee and a slice of cake. Free parking is available in Kenton Village car park, and the café is only a few minutes away from Powderham Castle where you can enjoy some historical sightseeing. Booking is advised because play sessions often sell out.

Lustleigh village, Dartmoor National Park
Lustleigh village, Dartmoor National Park.

4. Wander around the Dartmoor village of Lustleigh and head to The Cleave pub for lunch. The best time of year to visit is on May Day when the local children dance around the May pole and a small festival is held in the village centre; or go in August when the annual show takes place – think dog and horse shows, climbing walls, best vegetable competitions, craft stalls and plenty of food and drink options. A lovely traditional day out and one to add to the list of things to do in Devon with children.

5. Savour some of the best fish and chips in the Westcountry at Krispie’s in Exmouth. Order your fish of choice and their famous battered chips, then head a few minutes down the road to the beach to eat them and watch the sun go down.

Altitude Festival. things to do in Devon.
Altitude Festival.

6. Altitude festival in Blackborough is billed as Devon’s little festival with a big heart. This great local music festival is one of the family highlights of the summer, featuring music from around the UK, and great local food and drink in the beautiful Devon hills. You can visit for the day or camp and enjoy the evening’s entertainment. Organisers are taking a break in 2024, but they’re already planning for 2025, so look out for details.

7. The Agricultural Inn at Branford Speke has a Secret Garden where you can eat, drink and the children can play in Devon’s best beer garden. Enjoy, fresh and tasty Asian street food and a wide selection of local drinks and cocktails from the garden bar. Friendly dogs are welcome, but they must be on leads.

8. One of Devon’s best kept secrets is the Coppa Dolla Inn in Broadhempston. This family-run pub is famous for their two-in-one pies. Nestled in the heart of the Devonshire countryside the pub is the perfect year-round spot for solo explorers, couples, and families. There’s a beer garden for the summer months and open log fires for those chilly winter nights.

9. Elberry Cove is another must on the list of things to do in Devon with children.  A secluded spot away from the hustle and bustle of holidaymakers, the cove is just a short walk from Broadsands Beach and its amenities. With crystal clear waters, it could quite easily be mistaken for the Mediterranean – and rumour has it, it was one of Agatha Christie’s favourite spots for a dip.

Blackpool Sands Beach, things to do in Devon.
Blackpool Sands Beach.

10. Blackpool Sands, near Dartmouth. A popular daytime destination, the beach is quieter in the late afternoon/early evening and the sun’s rays warm the sand until well beyond sunset, so it’s the perfect spot for a picnic dinner or a barbecue and a quiet swim. The trip back across the Dart on the Higher Ferry (passing the Britannia Royal Naval College and all the small boats moored on the river) makes it even more memorable.

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